When you’re in a fix, just blame the beer

THIS HAS been a bad week for beer.

First, Tour de France winner Floyd Landis is under investigation for doping, and he quickly blames the “beer or two” he had the night before.

Then, holier-than-thou actor Mel Gibson goes on an anti-Semitic rampage, and his friends and even the police blame it on the beer.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Over the years, beer has taken the rap for a lot of unfortunate affairs.

Rowdy sports fans? Blame it on beer. Unplanned pregnancies, bad health, spilled secrets, petty theft, worker absenteeism, broken promises, country music…

OK, the last one probably has some validity. But mostly beer gets blamed unfairly because it’s a convenient alibi for ninnies who don’t have the integrity to own up to their own mistakes.

“That stuff is booze talking,” one cop said, excusing Gibson.

What exactly does that mean? I hear that all the time, and I don’t buy it. If you say something offensive when you’re drunk, it’s not as if the words were chemically produced by the beer. Those ideas were already in your head; you just always had the good sense to keep your mouth shut – until you got hammered.

Gibson, at least, confessed to his diatribe, even if he denied he’s an anti-Semite.

It’s Landis that I’m most disappointed about, and it’s not because I’m a cycling enthusiast. Like most cyclists I know, Landis is a big-time beer fan – so big, in fact, at one point during the tour, he traded one of his precious yellow jerseys for a sixpack. It was worth that much to him, I presume, because beer has given him a great deal of enjoyment over the years.

But then, to suddenly turn around and – having been accused of cheating – blame it on the beloved brews he drank the night before, well, that’s unforgivable. You’re supposed to grow out of that stuff the first time your fourth-grade teacher catches you firing spitballs and you try to blame it on your best friend.

Landis is not the first one to fink on his pal, either.

When Dennis Mitchell, the Olympic bronze-medal sprinter, failed a testosterone test in 1998, he blamed it on five bottles of beer he put down the night before. (He also unwisely pointed the finger at his own wife, with whom he said he’d had four rounds of sex that same evening.)

U.S. track officials accepted the excuse and lifted a suspension.

That’s the problem – it’s so easy to blame beer because beer can’t defend itself.

Look what happened in 1989, after the infamous Eagles-Cowboys snowball game, when fans targeted Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson. Then-owner Norman Braman blamed the barrage on the beer and persuaded the mayor to ban sales at the Vet for the rest of the season.

Never mind that the city, whose management of the stadium was abysmal, might’ve prevented the fiasco by simply shoveling the snow – it was the beer’s fault! Only coach Buddy Ryan had the guts to point out the obvious: “If you’re going to have snow in the stands, they’ll throw snowballs.”

Beer is such an easy target, it even gets blamed for Nazis. Some historians, recalling the ill-fated Beer Hall Putsch, believe Hitler came to power partly because Munich was so addled on Bavarian suds.

The beer-blame game is so ingrained, it’s part of the vocabulary.

There’s “beer-goggles,” the inability to discern the obvious bad looks of tonight’s bedmate. And “beer muscles,” or false bravado.

And, of course, there’s that flab you’ve got hanging below your belt, aka the “beer belly.”

Now, study after study agrees that, consumed in moderation, beer is perfectly healthy. But we’ve got a whole nation perversely convinced that its favorite beverage is the bad guy, that it can lose that belly if only it switches from a full-flavored 200-calorie bottle to a tasteless 100-calorie glass of light.

Never mind the Big Mac and fries or the hours of sitting in front of the TV – blame it on the beer!

Everybody else does.

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